“Little English and No Sense”: The Shakespeare Authorship Controversy

Coming soon to a theater near you: Anonymous, another blockbuster from Roland Emmerich, who brought you 2012, 10,000 B.C., The Day after Tomorrow, The Patriot, Independence Day, Eight-Legged Freaks and many other fine examples of historical drama.  Anonymous promises political intrigue, conspiracy, a Not-Even-Close-to-Virgin Queen, incest and exciting, explosive quill action. Yes, that’s right, it focuses on the guy who really wrote Shakespeare.  Well, no not really: it actually focuses on Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford.

It’s interesting (or do I mean disheartening?) that the “authorship question” could have attained such acceptance that it has achieved Hollywood blockbuster funding, although it would be even more surprising to see advertisements for “Not Anonymous, the gripping story of how a competent actor and businessman who never killed anyone wrote the works attributed to him!”  While it’s possible, even likely, that Emmerich’s film will convince some viewers, what’s more disturbing is the sympathetic platform the Oxfordians have been given by such prestigious media outlets as PBS’s Frontline, which aired “The Shakespeare Mystery” in 1989 (transcript here); NPR’s Morning Edition, which ran a story called “The Real Shakespeare? Evidence Points to Earl,” (host Renée Montagne was later presented with the Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award at the 13th Annual Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference); and the New York Times, which has run a series of Oxford-leaning “teach-the-controversy” articles by William S. Niederkorn.

I remember watching the Frontline episode when it was re-run and discussing it later with other English lit types.  We were all terribly worried about Frontline.  Was the quality of all their shows this bad?  Did we simply not recognize it because it wasn’t our field?  Would next week’s NOVA give a friendly ear to moon landing deniers?

I was also concerned because, while I was yelling at the screen about dubious assertions, part of me recognized that some of the arguments could sound convincing.  An educated person, familiar with Shakespeare’s works but not an expert, might be swayed by some of the claims, not because the person was stupid or ignorant, but because the program was slanted.  For instance, two scholars speak on behalf of Shakespeare in the show.  Samuel Schoenbaum appears twice to say, basically, “well, Shakespeare was a genius.”  I may be trivializing Schoenbaum’s contributions somewhat, but he doesn’t provide much of a counterargument to the Oxfordians, and he certainly doesn’t offer evidence in favor of Shakespeare’s authorship, which he was certainly capable of doing.  I suspect that this failing may have something to do with editing.  Both times he appears (briefly) on screen, he is followed by Charlton Ogburn, whose work inspired the episode, offering an impassioned rebuttal.  The other scholar, A. L. Rowse, actually manages to make a few reasonable points, but these are grossly overshadowed by his apparent arrogance, egocentricity and homophobia (he uses the word “homo” twice, once modified by “roaring”–no, really, I’m not kidding).  The points he makes are largely ignored in the program and probably would be by most viewers as well.  In 1992, Frontline aired “Uncovering Shakespeare: An Update,” a three-hour video conference moderated by William F. Buckley.  This program was more even-handed, featuring, among others, eminent Shakespeare scholars Gary Taylor and David Bevington.  Still, as the transcript linked above shows, the program ended with an “ANIMATION: of the Stratford statue breaking apart and revealing the 17th Earl of Oxford.”

In his book, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? James Shapiro, the Larry Miller Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, traces the history of the authorship question.  He notes that by the early 1980s the Oxfordian theory was largely moribund.  It was revived partly through the ceaseless efforts of Charlton Ogburn, and it received a great deal of media exposure through two mock trials, one before American Supreme Court Justices William Brennan, Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens and one before three British judges, Lord Oliver of Aylmerton, Lord Templeman and Lord Ackner.  Oxford lost both cases, but the trials gave the theory media attention and legitimacy, especially since both Blackmun and Stevens showed some sympathy for the Oxfordian cause, although, since the burden of proof was on the Oxfordians, they did not feel enough evidence for his authorship had been presented.  Stevens has subsequently  decided that Oxford did indeed write the plays.

Certain elements of the Oxford theory are unlikely to be generally compelling except to those who are fond of conspiracy theories, but these elements tend to be missing or downplayed when the theory is mooted in such venues as the New York Times or on PBS or NPR.  According to the Prince Tudor Theory, Oxford and Elizabeth I were lovers, and Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd earl of Southampton, was their illegitimate child.  This theory allows Oxfordians to sidestep the homoerotic elements of the sonnets addressed to a young man: the speaker is addressing his son, not the object of his romantic or sexual affections.  Of course, there is a tiny problem: some of the poems are homoerotic, no matter how hard you try to get around it.  Here, for instance, is Sonnet 20:

A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she pricked thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.

Imagining that the speaker is a father addressing his son just adds a world of ickiness.

Speaking of ickiness, there is also the Prince Tudor Theory II (Attack of the Killer Prince Tudor Theory).  According to this theory, Oxford was himself an illegitimate son of Elizabeth I (there were several others as well), making him both brother and father to Southampton (and, based on the sonnets, possibly his suitor).  Who else wants a shower?  Good news! Both theories will feature in Emmerich’s film.  Ogburn was a proponent of at least the first part of the theory and Charles de Vere Beauclerk, earl of Buford, a descendant of Oxford’s who appeared in the Frontline episode as “Charles Vere,” supports both parts of the theory.  Yet, oddly, these soap opera elements did not make it into the Frontline episode.

Ciphers and codes don’t get a great deal of mainstream attention either.  Ciphers were particularly associated with the theory that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare, since Bacon did devise a cipher, but proponents of many candidates (and there are scores of candidates) have found coded messages “proving” that [fill-in-the-blank] wrote Shakespeare.  Therein, of course, lies the problem: codes and ciphers have definitively proven that Bacon, Marlowe, Oxford and many others wrote Shakespeare.  If you tried hard enough, you could probably even find evidence that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.  Personally, I find it distressing that great works of art–Shakespeare’s plays or Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings–are regarded merely as coded messages.  The artistry and beauty of the work become lost in the secret message, as if they were a simple coincidence or accident of transmission.

So which bits of the Oxford theory are compelling?  Well, the fallacies, mainly.  Sometimes fallacious arguments can be presented in a way that seems quite convincing.  Oxfordians often cherry pick evidence that seems to support their point of view while ignoring other evidence or the general context.  In particular, they try to find correspondences between incidences in Oxford’s life and details of Shakespeare’s plays and poems.  Individually, many of these correspondences seem weak or coincidental: King Lear had three daughters; Oxford had three (legitimate) daughters; Hamlet was on a ship overtaken by pirates; Oxford was on a ship overtaken by pirates.  Put all these correspondences together, though, and you’ve got…well, strictly speaking, you have a bunch of mostly weak or coincidental apparent correspondences, but it seems as if they have greater cumulative weight, even if you can dismiss some of the claims (for instance, some of the details in the works actually appear in Shakespeare’s known sources).

Cherries are not the only things Oxfordians pick: they also pick nits.  While not strictly a fallacy, nitpicking is beloved of many fringe theorists, such as creationists, 9/11 truthers and those convinced that the moon landings were a hoax.  They attempt to pick as many holes as possible in the conventional viewpoint.  When one point is dismissed, they move on to the next (often without acknowledging that the first point has been disproved): “Well, what about this?  Okay, but what about this?”.  This tactic puts proponents of the conventional view on the defensive.  As with cherry picking, the sheer number of nitpicks gives the impression of weight, however flimsy the individual points may be.  This tactic also helps to hide the fringe theorists’ lack of a single, coherent explanation of an alternative view.  This lack is particularly noticeable amongst anti-Shakespeareans: the vast number of people who have been brought forward as the “real” Shakespeare shows that there is no single coherent counter-theory.  Even among Oxfordians, there are those who accept the Prince Tudor Theory and those who reject it; those who accept Prince Tudor Theory I but not II and those who accept both.

Anti-Shakespeareans, again like many fringe theorists, also employ a combination of argumentum ad populum (AKA the appeal to popularity or the appeal to numbers) and the argument from false authority.  In other words, they compile lists of people who support their point of view, particularly people who are thought to have great credibility in some area or another.  This list-making tendency has led to The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, vigorously promoted by actors Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance, who both appear in Anonymous.  The Declaration not only lists “verified signatories,” but “notable signatories” and “academic signatories,” as well as “past doubters.”  The numbers and some of the names seem impressive, but again, there is no consensus.  Among the past doubters and some of the present signatories, there are Baconians and Marlovians as well as Oxfordians.  Some of the past doubters expressed more of a vague discomfort with what they saw as the disconnect between the known facts of Shakespeare’s life and the grandeur of the plays than a firm conviction that someone else was the author.  The same likely holds true of some of the signatories: the document’s name expresses doubt rather than conviction.

It may also be noted that there are very few prominent scholars of Early Modern drama and poetry among the academic signatories.  This is unsurprising as there is a strong democratic and anti-intellectual element to the anti-Shakespearean movement (although it is not democratic when it comes to the actual author: he must have been aristocratic or at least university-educated).  Conventional scholars are portrayed as stodgy and hidebound, and, indeed, both Schoenbaum and Rowse came off as stodgy in the Frontline episode.  Such scholars may even be in on it.  As Shapiro says,

I’ve spent the past twenty-five years researching and teaching Shakespeare’s works at Columbia University.  For some, that automatically disqualifies me from writing fairly about the controversy on the grounds that my professional investments are so great that I cannot be objective.  There are a few who have gone so far as to hint at a conspiracy at work among Shakespeare professors and institutions, with scholars paid off to suppress information that would undermine Shakespeare’s claims.  If so, somebody forgot to put my name on the list.  (Contested Will, pp. 4-5)

While some Shakespearean scholars may indeed be stodgy or hidebound, they have also intensely studied the era, the works, the texts, theatrical history, printing history, and the typical and comparative vocabulary, grammar, spelling, punctuation and metrical tendencies of various Early Modern poets.  In other words, they are the best qualified people to make judgments about the authorship of Elizabethan and Jacobean works.  It is because of the work of such scholars that we now understand to what degree Shakespeare collaborated with other writers (less than many other playwrights of his day, but much more than was previously admitted).

Another fallacy often employed by anti-Shakespeareans is the argumentum ad ignoratiam or appeal to ignorance.  They make positive assumptions based on lack of evidence.  We have no documentary evidence that Shakespeare ever attended a school or university; therefore, he must not have had any formal education.  We have no books that we know belonged to Shakespeare, so he must not have owned many books.  He didn’t mention his books in his will, so he must not have owned many books.  We have no plays in his hand, and he did not mention his plays or poems in his will; therefore, he must not have written those works.

Of course the fact that we lack this information means…that we lack this information, nothing more.  Is it terribly surprising that 400 year old school records don’t survive?  Not really.  There’s certainly nothing suspicious about it.  No, there are no copies of Shakespeare’s plays in Shakespeare’s hands (with the possible exception of Sir Thomas More, which is in several hands, one of which may be Shakespeare’s).  Of course, there are no copies of Shakespeare’s plays in Oxford’s hand either, but then that’s all part of the plot.  No really, anti-Shakespeareans have a history of wanting to open tombs and monuments (and dredge rivers) looking for the lost manuscripts.  The possibility that they are hidden behind Shakespeare’s monument is even mentioned in the Frontline episode.  In reality, very few plays from the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras survive in manuscript copies written by the author.

As for the will…well, Oxfordians get very excited about the will.  Shakespeare doesn’t mention his library, his books or his plays.  True, but he didn’t personally own the plays: they belonged to the acting company.  Those that were published became the property of the publisher.  He doesn’t mention books, but nor does he mention many specific items: the bulk of his estate was entailed.  Shapiro, citing  James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, notes that when Shakespeare’s son-in-law John Hall went to prove Shakespeare’s will, he apparently had with him “an inventory of the testator’s household effects” (qtd. in Shapiro, p. 50).  Shapiro continues:

Whatever valuable books, manuscripts, or letters Shakespeare owned and was bequeathing to his heirs would have been listed in this inventory rather than in the will itself (which explains, as Jonathan Bate has observed, why the surviving wills of such Elizabethan notables as the leading theologian Richard Hooker and the poet Samuel Daniel fail, like Shakespeare’s, to list any books at all).  (p. 50)

It is also true that Shakespeare probably did not go to Oxford or Cambridge, but then, neither did a number of other playwrights of the time, including some, like Ben Jonson, who were more classically-inclined than Shakespeare.  We have no documentary evidence that Shakespeare attended grammar school, but that is because enrollment records from the King’s New School in Stratford do not survive.  Because Shakespeare’s father John was an alderman and later High Bailiff, his son would have been eligible to attend the school for free.  According to Shapiro, “Scholars have exhaustively reconstructed the curriculum in Elizabethan grammar schools and have shown that what Shakespeare…would have learned there…was roughly equivalent to a university degree today, with a better facility in Latin than that of a typical classics major” (p. 276).

At this point I can sense someone thinking, “Aha!  But Ben Jonson said Shakespeare had ‘small Latin and less Greek.’  What about that?  Huh?  Gotcha!”  Sometimes people take poetry way too seriously.  In the first place, it is fairly common, when an artistic person is being memorialized, to suggest that his or her genius was innate.  You’re unlikely to read a poem praising Beethoven for the scales he played as a child or memorializing Michelangelo’s time as an apprentice to Domenico Ghirlandaio.  It’s also entirely possible that Shakespeare’s knowledge of Latin was less impressive than Jonson’s, but to most of us, it would seem more than sufficient.  At any rate, Jonson followed up his comment on Shakespeare’s deficiencies in classical languages by comparing him favorably with classical poets.

Finally, it’s important to have an understanding of Jonson personality.  He was a talented writer and ferociously well-educated, although, like Shakespeare, he attended only grammar school, not university.  He and Shakespeare were friends and rivals.  Shakespeare is listed as a principal actor in Jonson’s comedy Every Man in His Humour and his tragedy Sejanus (the printed edition of this play gives an idea of just how proud of his Latin Jonson was.  He included footnotes indicating his classical sources.  See Stanley Wells, Shakespeare & Co., pp. 141-2).  He also had an ego the size of all outdoors.  In 1616, he produced an expensive folio edition of nine of his plays and many of his other poems.  He called the folio Works.  To include plays, which were considered pop culture ephemera, in such a format elicited some mockery.  An epigram appeared addressed “To Mr Ben Jonson, demanding the reason why he called his plays works.”  The epigram reads, “Pray tell me, Ben, where doth the mystery lurk; / What others call a play you call a work.”  Another epigram answered the question: “Thus answered by a friend in Mr Jonson’s defence: / Ben’s plays are works, when others’ works are plays” (qtd. in Wells, p. 158).  Had Jonson not produced his folio, however, it’s possible that Shakespeare’s colleagues John Hemmings and Henry Condell might not have produced the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works in 1623, in which case, roughly half the plays we know would have been lost.  Fortunately, Hemmings and Condell had the sense not to call the Folio “Works.”

Jonson said a lot of things about Shakespeare, not all of them complimentary.  He told Scottish poet William Drummond that “Shakespeare wanted art;” he also made disparaging comments about Pericles and The Winter’s Tale.  He said derogatory things about many other poets as well.  It’s possible that, even when praising Shakespeare, he couldn’t quite resist a tiny criticism.  Still, in the same poem he calls Shakespeare “Sweet swan of Avon” and declares that “He was not of an age, but for all time!”

Jonson’s tendency to both criticize and compliment Shakespeare can also be seen in a more intimate setting.  Many years after Shakespeare’s death, Jonson wrote in his diary,

I remember, the Players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing, (whatsoever he penn’d) hee never blotted out line.  My answer hath beene, would he had blotted a thousand.  Which they thought a malevolent speech.  I had not told posterity this, but for their ignorance, who choose that circumstance to commend their friend by, wherein he most faulted.  And to justifie mine owne candor, (for I lov’d the man, and doe honour his memory (on this side Idolatry) as much as any.)  Hee was (indeed) honest, and of an open, and free nature: had an excellent Phantsie; brave notions, and gentle expressions: wherein hee flow’d with that facility, that sometime it was necessary he should be stop’d…. His wit was in his owne power; would the rule of it had beene so too.  Many times hee fell into those things, could not escape laughter…. But he redeemed his vices, with his vertues.  There was ever more in him to be praysed, then to be pardoned.”  (Jonson, Timber: or, Discoveries; Made upon Men and Matter, included in Appendix B of The Riverside Shakespeare)

Jonson knew Shakespeare well.  They had worked together frequently, since Shakespeare was a shareholder in and chief playwright for London’s pre-eminent acting company, a company that paid for and staged several of Jonson’s plays.  It’s inconceivable that Jonson would not have noticed that his friend and rival was a semi-literate dolt (and, yes, Oxfordians do characterize Shakespeare as barely literate) who had no concept of playwriting or stagecraft.  Given Jonson’s ego, it’s hard to imagine he would have been happy keeping the secret of the true authorship of the plays (assuming he was in on the secret) and give credit to someone undeserving.


N.B. The title of this post is adapted from E. Talbot Donaldson’s fine book about Shakespeare’s use of Chaucer, The Swan at the Well.  In it, Donaldson shows how even perfectly respectable Shakespearean scholars can fall into folly.  Shakespeare would have known Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde from William Thynne’s The Works of Chaucer.  Thynne also included  Robert Henryson’s The Testament of Cresseid in this edition, with no indication that it was by a different author.  Some Shakespeare scholars have concluded that Shakespeare would have thought that the Testament was Chaucer’s continuation of Troilus, even though Troilus is dead at the end of Chaucer’s work and alive again in the Testament, which takes place many years later.  According to Donaldson, “It seems to me that to suppose that Shakespeare thought Chaucer wrote The Testament is to attribute to him not only little Latin and less Greek, but minimal English and no sense” (p. 76).

Further Reading:

Donaldson, E. Talbot.  The Swan at the Well: Shakespeare Reading Chaucer.  New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1985.

The Norton Shakespeare.  Gen. ed. Stephen Greenblatt.  New York and London: Norton, 1997.  Texts based on the Oxford Edition, gen. eds. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor.

The Riverside Shakespeare.  2nd ed.  Text. ed. G. Blakemore Evans.  Boston: Houghton, 1997.

Shapiro, James.  Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare.  New York: Simon, 2010.

Wells, Stanley.  Shakespeare & Co.: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher, and the Other Players in His Story.  New York: Vintage, 2006.

87 Responses to “Little English and No Sense”: The Shakespeare Authorship Controversy

  1. 4ndyman says:

    This reminds me greatly of the popular Mozart vs. Salieri arguments introduced by the great movie “Amadeus.” There’s no evidence that Salieri poisoned Mozart, and the legend might have died out, but Pushkin wrote a poem about it, and then Rimsky-Korsakov wrote an opera based on Pushkin. And then someone made the movie. And now people who have little exposure to music history believe that Salieri had a hand, if not both, in Mozart’s death.

    People love a story of intrigue, but sometimes they love the intrigue more than the truth.

  2. Howard Schumann says:

    The article makes many disparaging remarks about Oxfordians but never really tackles the issues. To say that we do not have much information about Shakespeare because it all happened so long ago is false and misleading. We have much documentation for lesser writers.

    Gabriel Harvey left over 150 books written in five languages.

    Thomas Nashe left behind a handwritten verse in Latin, a letter to William Cotton, and a 1593 letter to Sir George Carey to Cotton reports that Nashe had dedicated a book to him.

    Robert Greene’s death in 1592 was the talk of the town in literary circles and there is a complete record of Greene’s education at Cambridge.

    George Chapman contributed a commendatory poem to John Fletcher and received one from Michael Drayton.

    Drayton was treated by physician John Hall and was described in Hall’s casebook as an excellent poet. He has a handwritten inscription to “his honored friend” Sir Henry Willoughby on a copy fo his poem “The Battle of Agincourt”.

    Drayton, Chapman, Henry Chettle, and John Webster among others were paid by Henslowe to write plays. Thomas Dekker’s name appears in the Henslowe diary as a payee over fifty times.

    I could go on and on citing documentation from the period for John Marston, Francis Beaumont, William Drummond, Samuel Daniel, George Peele, John Lyly.

    Thomas Kyd wrote in a letter that he shared a room with Marlowe for writing and that Marlowe had been writing for his players. Peele paid tribute to Marolowe with in a month after his death. There are records of Marlowe’s education at Cambridge. Marlowe along with Eatson and Webster were three of the least documented writers yet for each of them, literary records survive such as personal tributes (while they were alive) or payments for writing.

    If the man from Stratford did write the plays, he would have left some trace as to HOW he did it. There is nothing to show that Shakespeare was a writer by vocation, and anyone who conspired to eradicate records could not possibly predict which records may have escaped detection and therefore might survive.

    All that we have for Shakespeare are six signatures, each spelled differently, one is incomplete and the other is blotted.

    The truth is that Shakespeare must have been able not only to read Latin but also French, Italian, and Spanish in addition to Latin and Greek, since the followings literary sources had not yet been translated into English. Scholars agree that these works were primary sources for Hamlet, Merchant of Venice, Othello and Measure for Measure.

    Francois de Belleforest Histories tragiques
    Ser Giovanni Fioranetino’s Il Pecorone
    Epitia and Hecatommithi
    Luigi da Porto’s Romeus and Juliet (Italian)
    Jorge de Montemayor’s Diana (Spanish)

    He did not pick up these languages at the Mermaid Tavern.

    • esiebert says:

      Howard, I am planning to discuss the documentary evidence, the spelling of Shakespeare’s name, etc. in more detail in another post. To respond briefly: while we have documents relating to SOME writers, we can’t expect to have the same amount of information for ALL writers, and indeed we don’t. For many of the writers of the era, we have very little information, much less than we have about Shakespeare. Some of his plays are mentioned in Henslowe’s diary, but, unlike many of the playwrights you mention, Shakespeare was not a freelance writer for most of his career: he had a stable position with the Lord Chamberlain’s/King’s Men. No records comparable to Henslowe’s Diary exist for that company.

      It is simply not true that we have no evidence that Shakespeare was a writer by vocation. There are quite a few references to him as a writer from his own lifetime and shortly after his death. The Riverside Shakespeare includes these in its appendices.


      • Howard Schumann says:

        There are no contemporary references linking the name Shakespeare to the man from Stratford-on-Avon. When writers refer to Shakespeare, they are talking about the name on the title page only. No one during his lifetime claimed to have met the man or exhanged correspondence with him. There are no descriptions of him. At his death, no one paid any attention.

    • Bob says:


      My cat just deleted the first draft of my reply (really). Now that I think about it, however, that does not mean that I did not write it. (ahem.)

      Anyway, if I may reply (again) point by point:

      “To say that we do not have much information about Shakespeare because it all happened so long ago is false and misleading. We have much documentation for lesser writers.”

      We actually have quite a bit of documentation for Shakespeare, as Eve points out. Any theory that posits a different author needs to not only explain all of that information as well, but explain it BETTER. That’s the burden of evidence you accept when you make an extraordinary claim like this. Please do look at the appendices of the Riverside Shakespeare, which should be available at any academic library.

      When it comes to the other authors you mention: So what? I mean, we’re talking about Shakespeare and you give me Nash and Chapman. I asked about Star Wars, and you’re telling me about Raiders of the Lost Ark. Just because these people left a comparatively long trail doesn’t mean that Shakespeare HAD to. He certainly MIGHT have, but that doesn’t mean that it would survive, either. I worked in an archive for a few years where I reconstructed as best I could the history of a mosaic firm in St. Louis, a powerhouse in American design during the 20th century. For reasons that I don’t know, the wife of the company’s principle burned huge numbers of records before my university swept in and acquired the rest. As a result, it was impossible to reconstruct the early years of this business from the available files, and this only 50 years after the events. But just because we only have good records from the late ’40s on doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist in the ’20s (which they did).

      “There is nothing to show that Shakespeare was a writer by vocation”

      What about sonnet 135?


      Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
      And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus;
      More than enough am I that vexed thee still,
      To thy sweet will making addition thus.
      Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
      Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
      Shall will in others seem right gracious,
      And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
      The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
      And in abundance addeth to his store;
      So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will
      One will of mine, to make thy large will more.
      Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
      Think all but one, and me in that one Will.


      The signature argument, however, is just bad. Spellings were not standardized at this period, and that includes names. Standardization only came with mass print literacy. Raleigh signed his name both Ralegh and Rawley. What, was Sir Walter Raleigh an illiterate bumpkin too? Anyone with basic, basic training in Renaissance studies (or history of English or lingustics) should know this, and it’s hard to imagine a serious scholar who could possibly be taken seriously make an about Shakespeare’s identity based on variant spelling. It’s such a basic, embarrassing flaw that it makes me wonder about the sincerity and seriousness of Shakespeare deniers.


  3. Howard Schumann says:

    My point is that we have so much documentation for lesser writers, do not you think it a bit odd that we have none for the greatest writer in the English language? I’m not sure what the puns on the name Will are about but they are certainly not strong evidence that the author was William of Stratford. De Vere was also called Will.

    Perhaps you could address the following questions:

    1. The Sonnets were published in 1609 bearing the most personal and intimate details of a man’s life. At a time when the author was allegedly still alive, he offered no dedication, took no part in its publication nor did he attempt to stop publication. How is that possible?

    2. The dedication to the Sonnets is written to our “ever-living author”, a tribute almost always reserved for someone who is no longer alive. Please explain?

    3. In Sonnet #125, the author claims to have “borne the canopy”. This refers to carrying the canopy over royalty during a procession. Oxford was known to have done this on several occasions. A commoner such as Shaksper would not have been allowed within 1000 feet of the monarchs. Please explain.

    4. The first 100 or so verses of the sonnets entreats a fair young man to marry. Scholars agree that the fair young man refers to Henry Wriotheseley, the 3rd Earl of Southhampton. No commoner such as Shaksper of Stratford would be allowed to address an Earl in such a manner. Please explain.

    5. Shakespeare without question was one of the greatest if not the greatest writer in the English language, yet his daughters were illiterate. How is this possible? I know the rate of literacy of women in that time was very low, but this is not a logical explanation.

    6. None of Shaksper’s relatives from Stratford ever claimed that their relative was the famous author. Explain.

    7. Dr. Hall was the husband of Susan Shaksper, daughter of William. In his journals he refers to famous men he knew and treated, yet never once mentions his wife’s illustrious father. Please explain.

    8. The sonnets are widely accepted to have been written in the early 1590s at a time when the man from Stratford would have been in his late twenties, yet his sonnets tell us that the poet was in his declining years when writing them. He was “Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity,” “With Time’s injurious hand crushed and o’er worn”, in the “twilight of life”. He is lamenting “all those friends” who have died, “my lovers gone”. His is “That time of year/When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs that shake against the cold.” Please explain.

    9. The sonnets that most contradict Will of Stratford’s life story are those about shame and disgrace to name and reputation. Here Shakespeare’s biographers have nothing to go on. The sonnets talk about a man who was in disgrace from fortune and men’s eyes. What biographical connection is there to the life of the man from Stratford that would have disgraced him and please don’t tell me that the Sonnets were merely literary exercises? It is not credible.

    10. Thomas Nashe and Gabriel Harvey were literary pamphleteers who wrote about the most prominent literary figures of the day and have many references to the Earl of Oxford, yet are strangely silent on any writer named Shakespeare. Why?

    11. After two successful poems were published under the name of Shakespeare (Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece), all the plays were published anonymously for five years until 1598 when William Cecil died. Is there some cause and effect going on?

    13. Many of the known sources for the plays were books in Italian, French, and Spanish that were untranslated at the time. There is no evidence that Shakspere could read any language other than English and there is even some question whether or not he was literate since nothing of his writing remains. There is no literary paper trail of any sort. While Oxford was fluent in those languages, what is there in the known background of the man from Stratford that could explain this knowledge?

  4. Bob says:

    This is long and deserves a real post in reply. So, I’ll do that tonight. Don’t say I never took you seriously.


    • Howard Schumann says:

      Thanks but please don’t try to force an answer where the thing is simply shrouded in mystery. Some of these questions may never be answered.

      Further on the Will Sonnet. In the context of the Sonnet, the word Will could have meanings other than a pun on the man’s name.

      For example:

      1. Wish, desire; thing desired.
      2. Carnal desire, lust, sexual longing.
      3. The auxiliary verb denoting a future tense, as in ‘it will be so, thou wilt vouchsafe’.
      4. Willfulness, obstinacy, determination.
      5. A slang term for the male sex organ. As in – this night he fleshes his will in the spoil of her honour. AW.IV.iii.14.
      6. A slang term for the female sex organ.

  5. Cyc says:

    First off I would like to thank you for writing this out. Second, I find it rather interesting that the same tactics used by those against the idea of Shakespeare writing Shakespeare are the same as creationists against those who follow reality…oh I mean ‘evolutionists’. A lot of it is a writer of the gaps type argument, which I’m sure could be turned around and used against them with the same exact results. Though, unlike creationists, these denialists don’t have the use of a magical sky daddy to just make everything all right.

    But Perhaps I do no give the conspiracy theorists their due. So many of them are equally good at ignoring evidence and reason as the next group.

    At any rate I look forward to this new direction in your writing. I enjoyed your original blog quite a bit and I believe I shall find reading this one to be immensely rewarding.

    • Howard Schumann says:

      You talk so blithely about evidence and reason but display none of that in your post. Concluding that a man who had little or no education, whose children were illiterate, who never left any writing other than six unreadable signatures with his name spelled differently in each one, who never traveled outside of London, who spent much time and effort engaging in petty lawsuits, who could not read books in French, Italian, or Spanish yet used untranslated material as his source material, who never left any books in his will, who left no letters, no correspondence, who did not elicit a single eulogy at his death is not about reason. It is about one word and that word is: FANTASY

    • Bob says:

      Thanks, Cyc! It’s good to have you here! And I’m sure I make the same mistakes too when I am more emotionally invested in a topic than educated about it. We just happen to be right about this! 🙂


  6. Is it necessary to assume that all the sonnets are autobiographical? Or that they were all written only out of personal motivation and not for friends, for money, or just as a creative exercise?

    And here I have a non-rhetorical question that relates to Howard’s first question: Were the sonnets written in a relatively short time for the purpose of publication? Or were they a collection of poems he did over his lifetime that were collected and published?

    • Howard Schumann says:

      No one can read these sonnets which are so deeply felt, so full of pain, and also so full of joy and love and longing without knowing intuitively that they came from the innermost being of the poet. I can no more believe that these Sonnets were written for money than I can accept that the Psalms of David were a literary exercise. Read all 154 and it will be obvious to you.

      The Sonnets were indeed written over the last 15 or so years of the poet’s life, with most scholars pointing to 1588-92 as the time when most or at the very least the “fair youth” sonnets were written.

  7. Bob says:

    “No one can read these sonnets which are so deeply felt, so full of pain, and also so full of joy and love and longing without knowing intuitively that they came from the innermost being of the poet.”

    You just “know”? That’s your answer? That’s not evidence. I’ve seen a lot of people mistaking quality of writing for evidence of personal experience. (My first published article was about a case of that.) The problem is, it seems to me, even though it is hard to imagine a writer who didn’t draw on personal experience in some way, no matter what they write, how do you tell what has been made up and what is real. “Just knowing” is not good enough. It’s simply not.

    The Sonnets are first mentioned by others in the 1890s. There is no reason to think that they came in the last 15 years of Shakespeare’s life because, let’s face it, he lived until 1616. They seem to have first been distributed among personal acquaintances. And writing poetry paid lousy even then. 🙂 The sequence is sort of reconstructed, but the topics and the topics, characters and variations on conceits suggest that they are related chronologically, though the precise order of writing can’t be determined (there is clearly something of a story hiding behind the poems). So, probably from the 90s and composed together. I’d have to look up the precise date of the first mention, but it’s time to sleep, perchance to cough up a lung. (gotta cold)


    • Howard Schumann says:

      Yes, that’s right. You just know they come from the heart. It’s called gnosis or direct experience. Can you read the Psalms of David without just knowing that they come from personal experience? I don’t think so.

      • Bob says:

        We’re not getting into Psalm authorship right now, but I’ll put that down on my list of future topics.

        I know in my heart, just know, that you are as wrong as a four-dollar bill. Really and truly know it. How do you tell whose gut feeling is right? To paraphrase Carl Sagan, don’t think with your gut.

        At this point, however, I have no sign from you that you have even understood our comments and the evidence we put forward, much less taken them seriously.


  8. esiebert says:

    James Shapiro’s book Contested Will deals in large part with the idea that Shakespeare’s writing, plays as well as sonnets, represent his own feelings and experience. He traces that belief to the 18th and 19th centuries, and conventional scholars also fall into this trap. The wide acceptance that Southampton is the young man of the sonnets is an example of this sort of thinking. It’s possible, of course, but there is really no evidence for the identification.

    • Howard Schumann says:

      This is something you will have to decide for yourself, not look to the so-called experts for verification. I would read all of the Sonnets (if you haven’t done so already) and see if you draw the same conclusion as Mr. Shapiro.

      Keep in mind that the academic establishment has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Anyone deemed to be a heretic in academia has a lot to lose.

      • esiebert says:

        I can assure you, I have read all the sonnets several times. The “academic establishment” has a vested interest in new research and claims that can be supported by solid reasoning and evidence.

      • Bob says:

        “This is something you will have to decide for yourself, not look to the so-called experts for verification.”

        Actually, one of Eve’s specialty areas was Shakespeare. I have taught the sonnets. Yes, we’ve read them. We’re what you call experts. Have you gone to read the documents that you’ve claimed don’t exist? There is in fact a premium in the humanities in being original and innovative and finding orthodoxies to break. The fact that the Oxfordian view is supremely rejected by so-called experts, by which I assume you mean “real actual experts,” suggests not that what you are saying is not “too edgy” but that it “too wrong to even consider.” And people consider a lot of stupid stuff in the humanities. It takes a special sort of silliness to get completely sidelined.


  9. Howard Schumann says:

    In answer, I would simply quote Dr. Richard A. Waugaman, a psychoanalyst who has been engaged in Shakespeare studies for many years.

    “Literary studies lack a methodology that offers reliability and validity in assessing evidence for authorship. Further, scholars who have staked their careers and reputations on traditional authorship beliefs are bound to encounter severe cognitive dissonance when they try to weigh contrary evidence objectively. As a result, power, authority, and personal influence all play prominent roles in public positions on authorship on the part of Shakespeare scholars who have academic careers.

    Winning a Ph.D. in English; being hired, published, promoted, and respected by one’s peers may all be jeopardized by expressing “heretical” opinions on authorship. Most scholars show little capacity to tolerate doubt as to authorship.

    We trust experts, and we should– usually. We assume science, when compared to literary studies, possesses a more reliable methodology for evaluating new theories. But recall that Alfred Wegener had accumulated overwhelming evidence for his theory of continental drift by 1915. He was a mere geographer, though, not a geologist.

    Geologists, the specialists in that field, argued that there was no known conceivable explanation of how continental drift could have occurred, so they ridiculed Wegener’s theory. But, by the mid-1960s, new information about plate techtonics provided the missing pieces of explanatory theory, and geologists now fully accept Wegener’s brilliant and well documented 1915 proposal.

    The situation is analogous when it comes to de Vere as Shakespeare. We have abundant evidence that he was regarded by his contemporaries as the best of the Elizabethan courtier poets; that a few of his contemporaries knew he wrote anonymously; that he sponsored theatrical companies most of his life; and that he was regarded as one of the best Elizabethan authors of comedies. There are hundreds of connections between the content of the plays and poems of Shakespeare and the documented facts of de Vere’s life. But, we still do not know with certainty why he wrote under a pseudonym. This crucial but missing piece of evidence is a major reason de Vere is not yet more widely accepted as Shakespeare.”

  10. Bob says:

    Have you read the things I have suggested? Have you read the things I suggested? Really. Read the things that I have suggested. Then quote someone at me that it’s unreliable. Again, no indication that you are even trying to follow up on what we have said.

    And I have added psychoanalysis to a growing list of things that we need to discuss on this website, as well as the function of literary studies.

    It’s not a matter of “orthodoxy vs. unorthodoxy,” it’s a matter of “competence vs. incompetence.” And why don’t Shakespeareans who get tenure, who, as you have imagined it, are consciously obscuring the truth, revert to what they know is true when their job is unassailable?


    • Bob says:

      Did you read the next post that we put up?


      • Howard Schumann says:

        I can assure you I have read every post you have put up with great interest. It looks like we have a serious disagreement as to where the truth lies. If there is a particular statement you wish me to respond to, please let me know. I feel as if I’ve responded to everything said, though you may disagree.

        I have seen no contemporary evidence (during his lifetime) that Mr. William of Stratford wrote the works attributed to him. On the contrary, there is much circumstantial evidence that the works were written by Edward de Vere. If you have any contemporary evidence to the contrary, I would be glad to consider it.

        This does not include references to “Shakespeare” during his lifetime since any such references refer only to the name on the title page.

        Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for your answer to the 12 questions I posed.

      • Bob says:

        I put up an entire new post responding to those questions.


  11. esiebert says:

    “I have seen no contemporary evidence (during his lifetime) that Mr. William of Stratford wrote the works attributed to him…. This does not include references to “Shakespeare” during his lifetime since any such references refer only to the name on the title page.”

    What you seem to be saying is that there is a lot of documentary evidence that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, but somehow it doesn’t count because the evidence refers “only to the name on the title page.” Those title pages are themselves evidence, much stronger evidence than exists for Oxford’s authorship, and many of the other references don’t refer to title pages at all, since some refer to works that had not yet been published. This is true, for instance, of Francis Meres’s Palladis Tamia which names quite a few of Shakespeare’s works, including the presumably lost Love’s Labour’s Won. Meres mentions Shakespeare as among the best writers of several genres. He lists both Shakespeare and Oxford as preeminent writers of comedy.

    • Howard Schumann says:

      We know that a “Shakespeare” wrote the works. What we don’t know is if this was a pseudonym (which was very common in Elizabethan England, a repressive and authoritarian state) or not. When I say there is no evidence, I am referring to evidence that the “Shakespeare” referred to was William of Stratford.

      I believe there was a concerted effort to have Meres list both writers separately in order to make sure Oxford’s identity as the writer named Shakespeare was concealed.

      Incidentally, Richard M. Waugaman ’70, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and Training & Supervising Analyst Emeritus, Washington Psychoanalytic Institute. His 65 scholarly publications began with an article stemming from his senior thesis on Nietzsche and Freud, supervised by Walter Kaufmann.

      There are also 330 academics that have signed the declaration expressing doubts about the Stratford attribution.


      • esiebert says:

        If I was looking for information on some aspect of clinical psychology, perhaps I would consider what Dr. Waugaman has to say. I don’t, however, see why I should give particular weight to what he says about a field that is unrelated to his own, especially when he says things that are simply wrong. Authorship studies–real authorship studies–do have clear and reliable methodologies.

        To give an example of the way scholars of Early Modern English go about studying authorship, allow me to quote Donald W. Foster’s introduction (in the Norton Shakespeare) to a funeral elegy written for one William Peter. This elegy was printed by Thomas Thorpe, who also printed the sonnets, and is attributed to a certain W.S.

        “W.S.’s vocabulary has been tested against a comprehensive cross sample of early modern texts in electronic form–an archive of more than twelve million words…. Among hundreds of contemporaneous texts and writers, W.S’s diction most closely matches that of Shakespeare, including more than a dozen rare words for which there is no precedent except Shakespeare. The lexical match extends also to more common words. Both W.S. and Shakespeare use conjunctions that were falling out of use by 1612….Both prefer the same auxiliary verbs…. Both poets coin compound words on the same pattern…. W.S. and Shakespeare use even the most ordinary function words with corresponding frequency…, and the two poets share quirky habits of grammar and syntax that were not identified as distinctively ‘Shakespearean’ until 1880 or later…. Equally rare is W.S.’s extraordinarily high rate of enjambment…unequaled in 1612 except by Shakespeare, among known poets” (3303).

        As you can tell from the ellipses, I’ve left out a lot of details, and there is more evidence that I haven’t included. The point is that this is quantifiable evidence that strongly suggests that this little-known and frankly not terribly interesting poem was likely written by the same guy who wrote the plays and poems attributed to William Shakespeare. And it was written 8 years after Oxford’s death.

  12. Bob says:

    330 academics? That’s almost none. Let’s put that number in context: let’s say there are (and I’m making these numbers up) 2000 college English departments in the country and they average 15 faculty per department. That’s 30,000 college English teachers (I’m estimating conservatively). That’s about 1 percent of English teachers…BUT NOT EVEN THAT because most of the people on there, when they list their credentials are clearly speculating outside of the field they have expertise in. Seriously, there are handbell choir directors and architects. Why listen to them? Any actual, respected scholars of Elizabethan theater? In reality, far, far less than 1 percent of qualified English teachers at the college level signed this. They are mostly, like Waugaman, outside of their field.

    Shakespeare was not a freaking pseudonym. His name is on those legal documents you still haven’t looked at. You don’t make a pseudonym the King’s Players.


    • Bob says:

      Hang on. I see how they are organizing signatures. But the point remains, even if ALL of them were English teachers, they would still be a vanishingly small fringe group.

      • Howard Schumann says:

        You guys are so locked into your position that there is no room for legitimate discussion of the issues. When you answer the 12 questions, I will respond.

    • Howard Schumann says:

      Nothing that you or your friend has said constitutes any evidence that the Shakespeare or WS referred to is William of Stratford. There is no question that Shakespeare wrote the plays and poems. The question is “Who was Shakespeare?”

      Your statement that only academics have any legitimate information or ideas to present on the issue is pure arrogance.

      I’m curious. Which of the following Oxfordian books have you (or ES) read?

      The Mysterious William Shakespeare by Charlton Ogburn

      Shakespeare By Another Name by Mark Anderson

      Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom by Charles Beauclerk

      Shakespeare’s Unauthorized Biography by Diane Price

      De Vere as Shakespeare by William Farina

      • Bob says:

        “Nothing that you or your friend has said constitutes any evidence that the Shakespeare or WS referred to is William of Stratford.”

        Collectively, it’s overwhelming evidence that you must confront first.

        “Your statement that only academics have any legitimate information or ideas to present on the issue is pure arrogance.”

        That’s a heck of a thing to say to people who have listened to you and attempted to answer your questions at some length. What is it that allows a marginal non-specialist to say that she knows better than the collective minds of the field’s leaders? Is that not arrogance? I certainly don’t have the arrogance to make that claim.

        I haven’t read the books you’ve talked about. But that’s fine, because other experts have read them and commented on them at some length. And on expert recommendation (and personal interest) I decide what I will spend my time reading. If an aeronautical engineer said, “Don’t get on that plane,” I’d rent a car. You climb on the plane.


      • esiebert says:

        My primary point about the W.S. poem was to show the methodology used by scholars studying authorship. You quoted a psychoanalyst who said literary studies lacks a reliable methodology for assessing authorship. I should add that scholars look at non-Shakespearean issues as well. I am unaware of any reputable authorship study that has compared the works attributed to Oxford and the works attributed to Shakespeare and found any compelling correspondences between the two.

  13. esiebert says:

    Howard, we did respond to your 12 questions in the post “Spear Shaking.”

  14. Bob says:

    You can see our reply here.

  15. This seems like a wonderful bit of circular reasoning: “Literary studies lack a methodology that offers reliability and validity in assessing evidence for authorship.”

    You can’t trust literary studies to prove who Shakespeare was. But trying to prove who Shakespeare was is by definition “literary study.” Where does that leave us?

  16. Bob says:


    There is an area known as “authorship studies” that has to do with trying to find a linguistic fingerprint (quantifying the syntax, sentence structures, and relative word use), and like other modes of investigation, it is not a magic bullet. Like all areas of study, we make decisions about probable authorship based on a variety of considerations and lines of evidence, like any other area of study. It’s not my area (most of my authors only died in the last decade, so we know who they were). Arguing for a single piece of evidence that proves Shakespearean authorship is like demanding a single piece of evidence to prove evolution. That’s not how it works. It depends on many, many lines of inquiry.


    • Howard Schumann says:

      If you haven’t read any of the books I mentioned above, there is simply nothing more to talk about.

      • Michael5MacKay says:

        If there was any compelling evidence in the books you cited, you could use it here to support your argument.

        I’ve read them. There isn’t.

        One simple fact makes it much more probable that William Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him: Oxford died in 1604, while Shakespeare’s works continued to appear, and, from internal evidence, were newly written for at least 5 years thereafter. It is infinitely easier for a living man to write new plays than a dead one.

  17. Howard Schumann says:

    Since none of you compatriots, in spite of your claim to be scholars, seem to have read any material on the case for Oxford, I will provide a brief summary of the case before signing off.

    The fact that some works were published under the attribute of William Shakespeare does not identify the man behind the name. There is nothing in his handwriting ever discovered except for six almost illegible signatures. There are no letters, no correspondence, no manuscripts, no paper trail at all to identify the man behind the name, not a single word. Nobody claims to having ever met the man. When contemporaries refer to William Shakespeare, they are referring to the name on the title page and nothing else.

    The few facts we know about Shakespeare from Stratford are stretched, pulled, and twisted to make it plausible that he was the author. There is nothing in his biography to connect him with the works. Indeed the opposite is true. Robert Bearman sums up Shakespeare’s life as follows in “Shakespeare in the Stratford Records” (1994), published by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust: “Certainly, there is little, if anything, to remind us that we are studying the life of one who in his writings emerges as perhaps the most gifted of all time in describing the human condition. He seems merely to have been a man of the world, buying up property, laying in ample stocks of barley and malt, when others were starving, selling off his surpluses and pursuing debtors in court….”

    The Sonnets are written by a man who is clearly much older. Conventional chronology dates the sonnets to between 1592 and 1596. At this time, William of Stratford would have been in his late twenties and early thirties (Oxford was 14 years older). Even if we up the date to 1599, William of Stratford was still in his thirties. The sonnets tell us that the poet was in his declining years when writing them. He was “Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity,” “With Time’s injurious hand crushed and o’er worn”, in the “twilight of life”. He is lamenting “all those friends” who have died, “my lovers gone”. His is “That time of year/When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs that shake against the cold.”

    The sonnets that most contradict Will of Stratford’s life story are those about shame and disgrace to name and reputation. Here Shakespeare’s biographers have nothing to go on. Many books that were used as source material for the plays were not translated into English in Shakespeare’s time. For example:
    Francois de Belleforest Histories tragiques
    Ser Giovanni Fioranetino’s Il Pecorone
    Epitia and Hecatommithi
    Luigi da Porto’s Romeus and Juliet (Italian)
    Jorge de Montemayor’s Diana (Spanish)

    Shakespeare’s reliance on books in foreign languages puzzles the experts, so we can suppose all sorts of things rather than conclude the obvious. If the man who was Shakespeare regularly relied on books not yet translated from Italian, French, and Spanish, then he must have been able to read in Italian, French, and Spanish.

    The assumption behind the support for William Shakespeare of Stratford as the author has to be that he was no ordinary mortal because otherwise there is no accounting for the detailed knowledge of the law, foreign languages, Italy, the court and aristocratic society, and sports such as falconry, tennis, jousting, fencing, and coursing that appears in the plays. I do not have any doubt that genius can spring from the most unlikely of circumstances. The only problem here is that there is in this case no evidence to support it. Would the greatest writer in the English language have allowed his daughters to remain illiterate?

    Edward De Vere, on the other hand, was a recognized poet and playwright of great talent, and although no play under Oxford’s name has come down to us, his acknowledged early verse and his surviving letters contain forms, words, and phrases resembling those of Shakespeare. We know specifically that Oxford was fluent in four foreign languages, Latin, Greek, Italian, and French. The Shakespeare plays and poems show that the author had specific knowledge of certain works of literature, certain prominent persons in Elizabeth’s court, and events connected with them. In the sonnets and the plays there are frequent references to events that are paralleled in Oxford’s life. For example in the play, “All’s Well That Ends Well:”

    Oxford became a ward of court in Lord Burghley’s household at the age of twelve. Oxford left his widowed mother to become a royal ward.

    Bertram left his widowed mother to become a royal ward.

    Oxford’s guardian’s daughter fell in love with him and wanted to be married.

    Bertram’s foster-sister fell in love with him and wanted to be married.

    Oxford was of more noble birth than Anne and did not favor marriage.

    Bertram argued he was of too high birth for marriage.

    Following an ailment, marriage was agreed and the Queen consented to Oxford’s marriage.

    Following an illness, the King consented to the marriage.

    The wedding was at first postponed, no reason was given.

    Bertram attempted to change the King’s mind regarding his marriage.

    After the wedding, Oxford suddenly left the country.

    After the wedding, Bertram suddenly left the country.

    A reconciliation between Oxford and Anne is contrived by switching his bed companion for his wife. As a result, a son is born. Confirmation of this reconciliation appears in The Histories of Essex by Morant and Wright: 1836.

    A reconciliation between Bertram and Helena is contrived by switching his bed companion for his wife. As a result, a son is born.

    Of the 37 plays, 36 are laid in royal courts and the world of the nobility. The principal characters are almost all aristocrats with the exception perhaps of Shylock and Falstaff. From all we can tell, Shakespeare fully shared the outlook of his characters, identifying fully with the courtesies, chivalries, and generosity of aristocratic life. Lower class characters in Shakespeare are almost all introduced for comic effect and given little development. Their names are indicative of their worth: Snug, Stout, Starveling, Dogberry, Simple, Mouldy, Wart, Feeble, etc.

    The history plays are concerned mostly with the consolidation and maintenance of royal power and are concerned with righting the wrongs that fall on people of high blood. His comedies are far removed from the practicalities of everyday life or the realistic need to make a living. Shakespeare’s vision is a deeply conservative, feudalistic and aristocratic one. When he does show sympathy for the commoners as in Henry V speech to the troops, however, Henry is also shown to be a moralist and a hypocrite. He pretends to be a commoner and mingles with the troops in a disguise and claims that those commoners who fought with the nobility would be treated as brothers.

    But we know there was no chance of that ever happening in feudal England. What can scarcely be overlooked is a compassionate understanding of the burdens of kingship combined with envy of the carefree lot of the peasant, who free of the “peril” of the “envious court”, “sweetly…enjoys his thin cold drink” and his “sleep under a fresh tree’s shade” with “no enemy but winter and rough weather”. This would come naturally to a privileged nobleman.

    In the Renaissance period in England no courtiers were allowed to publish poetry –this was an unwritten code of the court. The need for a pseudonym by an author-courtier such as Oxford would have been essential. More than that, it was a matter of self-protection. Ben Jonson was tortured for a play he had written and we all know the fate of Christopher Marlowe.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg.

  18. Bob says:

    You have not indicated that you have read what we put before you. We did your research for you, now read it. Read it. Have you noticed that you have not responded to a single substantive point that we have made? Really. Show us you’ve read the primary sources that we put out there, and then we’ll talk. I’m done until then.


    • Howard Schumann says:

      I don’t know what you are referring to? You have said many things and refuted many things I’ve said. I know the eulogy of William Basse was raised as an issue and I am still doing research on that. I’m not sure what other primary sources you are talking about? What “substantive” point do you want me to address that I haven’t already commented on?

      • Howard Schumann says:

        NOTE: I submitted this comment previously but it was not published. I’m sure, as you said, you wished me to respond to all of your comments.

        As far as Basse is concerned, I am looking into that and will get back to you on that issue. I’m not sure when the eulogy was written but it does seem to refer to William of Stratford. The question that has to be raised in an instant like this where it is the only eulogy that was delivered close to his death is – did he know the man or is he making an assumption from the works that the Shakespeare on the title page and the man from Stratford were one and the same? The cover-up was engineered by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men/King’s Men to protect de Vere, the source of their plays and consequently their income and it was their intention that the public believe that the writer Shakespeare and the man from Stratford were one and the same. I will get back to you, however, if I come up with something mire than speculation.

        The Shake-scene passage is ambiguous and various interpretations are possible. Author Stephanie Hopkins Hughes believes that it refers to fellow actor Edward Alleyn, not William Shakespeare. The entire passage is divided into tales about a character named Roberto, a deathbed repentance, the open letter to the playwrights, and a fable about the Ant and the Grasshopper. All of these tales introduce themes that recur throughout Groatsworth – hatred of profiteers and poverty and remorse over profligate spending. Both Shake-scene and Robert have much in common. Both are braggarts, both share a predilection for extemporizing, both hire needy playwrights. Some critics have accepted Roberto as a caricature of Shakespeare. The following is a skeptic’s paraphrase of the “Upstart Crow” diatribe:
        “Beware of one untrustworthy actor, the “Upstart Crow”. We make him look good in the roles we write, but this player is callous, duplicitous, and arrogant. ; he facies himself himself able to extemporize lines in blank verse that are as good as any of yours (the three playwrights Peele, Marlowe, and Nashe). He even passes off some of your material as his own. And this know-it-all thinks he’s the most important actor around…So while you still have a chance to escape my fate, find some playmasters with more compassion and integrity. Stay away from actor-paymasters and userers (like Johannes Factotum) because you three are too talented to be exploited by such contemptible knaves.”

        For more discussion, consult the chapter “Johannes Factotum” pp.45-59, Shakespeare’s Unauthorized Biography by Diana Price.

        I do not have access to either the Norton edition of Shakespeare or the Riverside edition but chances are they refer to Shakespeare without identifying the man behind the name. If there was concrete evidence that the man from Stratford and the writer Shakespeare were one and the same, there would be no authorship debate. This debate has gone on for centuries for one reason – the truth hasn’t been told, i.e., the questions about who the real author have not been answered satisfactorily.

        Question 1 – pure speculation. Does not answer the underlying question. The title is not The Sonnets by William Shakespeare but Shake-speare’s Sonnets with no other attribution to the author. Shake-speare’s Sonnets implied that these are all that exist and that there will be no more. The fact remains that it is highly unlikely that the author would have agreed to have his intimate poems that deal with references to real people (though unnamed) and are revealing of his innermost sexual thoughts published without a dedication or an introduction.

        Question 2 – The dedication is ambiguous and again open to interpretation. Some have passed off the dedication “Our ever-living poet” as referring to God but this is a forced interpretation with no evidence to support it. It seems to me that it is more logical to assume that the author of the included Sonnets is being referred to.

        Question 3 – This has also been interpreted many ways but the most likely one is that he “carried the canopy”. Anything you can’t explain is covered by the statement that “this is not autobiography”. I venture to say that if there was the slightest reference to the biography of the man from Stratford you would be trumpeting it to he heavens.

        Question 4 – What is evident that at the time the first 17 Sonnets were written (1590-92), Lord Burghley was entreating Southhampton to marry Elizabeth Vere, Oxford’s daughter and the Sonnets were asking the fair young man to marry and procreate. No coincidence there since the majority has identified the fact that the fair youth Sonnets were indeed addressed to Southhampton.

        Question 5 – No sorry, not the end of the story, only in your mind. We are not talking about some obscure poet here, but the greatest writer in the English language who created strong, articulate, and smart women in his plays. He retired supposedly in 1612 and lived at home for four years before his death. To think that he would be content to have daughters who could not read or write simply boggles the mind.

        Question 6 – Whatever, the reason we have no record that any of Shakespeare’s relatives ever referred to their relative as a writer of great renown. To say that because we don’t have any evidence that George Washington was a closet homosexual, it doesn’t mean that he wasn’t one. You can use that argument for almost anything. The most logical answer is that his relatives did not recognize him as a writer is because he was not.

        Question 7 – DR. Hall was the husband of one of Shakespeare’s daughters. His journal was about men he knew and also treated. Even if he didn’t treat William, it doesn’t make sense that he would not refer to him in his journal. Here, like other issues we are talking logic and common sense.

        Question 8 – Not likely. The theme of age, losing one’s friends, being lame, and so forth are replete throughout the Sonnets. Why would a young man in his early twenties pretend to me an old man? Doesn’t compute.

        Question 9 – Again, you’re the one who needs them to be a so-called literary exercise though common sense tells us otherwise. Believe me, if there was anything in the Sonnets that mirrored the life of Shakespeare of Stratford we would never hear the end of it. The Sonnets are no more of a literary exercise that the Psalms of David. Both come from the deep wellsprings of the author’s heart.

        Question 10 – Yes, but they never refer to the writer Shakespeare as one they knew as William of Stratford. They are discussing the works, not the man yet there are plenty of references to the man Edward de Vere.

        Question 11 – If the author was indeed the man from Stratford and the poems you refer to were so popular, there is no logical explanation as to why the plays published until William Cecil’s death were anonymous.

        Question 13 – (should have been 12) How dare you call this an argument from ignorance. Is it because you have no answer that makes any sense. Five of Shakespeare’s main sources were not translated into English at the time they were used. While we know that Oxford was fluent in five or more languages, there is no evidence that man with a grammar school education could have picked up enough of any language through discussions in the Mermaid Tavern to be able to read books in the original language.

        Thank you for at least trying to answer these questions. Unfortunately most of the answers are tortured and do not address the fundamental implications.

  19. Howard Schumann says:

    About the Basse Eulogy, this was first published in the 1640 Benson edition of Shakespeare’s poems. To you this is simply one more example of the truth, while to me it suggests that questions about the authorship were still strong enough in 1640 that a reinforcement of the cover story was required.

    In 1640, the Earl of Montgomery was still alive. Montgomery, with the assistance of his relative, Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, was in the perfect position to see to it that such a poem was installed among the requisite dedications.

    There is no evidence that Basse wrote his lines earlier than 1633 and the way the title emphasizes the date of the poet’s death is really rather strange: “On Mr. Wm. Shakespeare, he died in April 1616.”

    This attribution must have been due to the need to hide the identity of the true author, most likely because he or his family or his colleagues would have been damaged had his identity been known.

    Blatantly pointing out that Shakespeare died in 1616 seems obviously to call attention to the fact that he was the one from Stratford! Why was it necessary to do that unless it was a part of the cover up? Everything published that refers to the authorship is not straightforward and is not to be taken at face value.

  20. John says:

    You know the thing that really confuses me about this whole issue is: Why complicate something needlessly?

    The simple answer is that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. He got credit for writing the plays because he wrote the plays.

    Usually if someone creates something good that person wants people to know. If I was the 3rd Earl of East Lower Bumpkinville and some actor took credit for my work I’d have him in the king’s court faster than his head could spin. From what I’ve read about the litigiousness of the Elizabethans that is exactly what would have happened.

    • Howard Schumann says:

      Obviously Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. The question is – who was Shakespeare? Was Shakespeare’s name “rented” to cover up the true author?

      I can only conclude that the role of William of Sratford in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men lay solely in the use of his name as a cover for their Company playwright. The Company rented his name from 1594 (more likely 1595) until his death in 1616, masking the true nature of their connection by describing him as an actor-sharer.

      It seems that he hung around at times, perhaps to gain some understanding of how his money was being generated. If Ben Jonson’s clown, Sogliardo, in “Every Man Out of His Humour,” is, as many believe, based largely on William, he may have made something of a nuisance of himself to the actors.

      As Steohanie Hopkins Hughes said, “Oxford was not the only one who wanted there to be a buffer between himself and the playgoing world. This hiring of a stand-in would have been an acceptable deal all around. The Queen did not want it publicized that one of her top earls was the author of popular plays; Oxford’s in-laws didn’t want it; his new wife and her family would not have wanted it. His rivals certainly didn’t want him to get any more publicity than necessary.

      His actors didn’t want anything that might put a stop to their supply of quality plays. The only ones who would have wanted the truth made known were his enemies, so they could use it to damage him and his friends and families.”

    • esiebert says:

      I’m in the middle of composing my last post on this issue for the time being, and I found myself saying pretty much the same thing, although somehow I’d forgotten all about the 3rd Earl of East Lower Bumpkinville–that guy had some serious talent.


  21. […] Bob: “*Thumps head on desk*” [An admittedly misappropriated comment but what the […]

  22. Sorry I’m a bit late arriving. I just found this thread. No way I can respond to everything, but I thought some might be interested in my website. Since that earlier article that was quoted above, I’ve had some 30 further publications on Shakespeare and the psychology of pseudonymity. I’ve been linking my website to the full text of my publications– http://www.oxfreudian.com.

    I’m a bit surprised to find Foster cited as to the methodology of authorship attribution, when he had to retract his attribution of A Funeral Elegy. More to the point might be J.W. Starner and B.H. Traister’s new edited book, Anonymity in Early Modern England: What’s in a Name?

  23. […] very first post on this-here blog was inspired by news of the upcoming Roland Emmerich film, Anonymous, an […]

  24. […] death?” Okay, I’m just going to copy and paste what I said about the will in my first post on this […]

  25. wordplay68 says:

    I haven’t laughed this hard in awhile. Bob and Eve, your responses — learned, disciplined, kind and hilarious all at once — have been a joy to read. I read one Oxfordian book (and a bit about the issue online), and that was enough. It’s clear to me that this whole Oxfordian disinfirmation blitz is baseless; from books to blogs you get the same obfuscation and false arguments. But it’s one thing to argue out of ignorance, and yet another to be shown the error of one’s logic (as above), and completely ignore it. Not two posts after you (Bob) outline the various false arguments, Mr. Shumann proceeds to use, I think, every one.

    As a lay observer, it’s amusing — to a point. I might’ve dismissed this Web-fueled dust-up over Shakespeare’s authorship were it limited to books and a conference or two. (By the way, what an odd reverse-snobbery going on here, whereby Oxfordians, finding themselves in the same room as real scholars, self-consciously think acting snobbish will give them more credibility). But, the release of Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous movie … is really just disturbing. It’s incredibly irresponsible.

    You have to wonder what stake, what personal investment Oxfordians have in this (we know what Emmerich’s is), if it’s not (obviously) the pursuit of knowledge or truth. I think it’s simply a phenomena of the Internet, coupled with the Age of Spectacle. Embarrassment and shame would’ve taken care of the lot of Oxfordians, had these debates been in public forums. But, alas, those sorts of checks on society don’t work on the … anonymous Web.

  26. Speaking of personal investments, the multibillion dollar Shakespeare industry is going all out to discredit the film “Anonymous” and Edward de Vere. Falsehoods promoted by the academic establishment whose careers are on the line are repeated ad nauseum by clueless critics who seem to have done no research at all.

    I don’t know what Oxfordian books Mr. wordplay68 has read but he must have been dozing through most of it. The arguments for de Vere are numerous and compelling, but it takes an open mind to fully appreciate. Since we have nothing written in Shake-speare;s hand except for six unreadable signatures each spelled differently, the so-called evidence for Will of Stratford is based on guesswork and conjecture.

    If you can find anything in writing during Shakespeare’s lifetime which states that William Shakespeare was the man from Stratford, please enlighten me. No one has ever claimed in 400 years to have met the man while he was alive.

    • Pacal says:

      You have no idea how funny you are!

      “If you can find anything in writing during Shakespeare’s lifetime which states that William Shakespeare was the man from Stratford, please enlighten me. No one has ever claimed in 400 years to have met the man while he was alive.”


      As for discrediting Anonymous the multiple icest porn plot does that quite well by itself.

      • Apparently it seems that when you cannot deal with the evidence, you resort to ridicule and personal attacks – a typical denial mechanism expertly applied by Stratfordians.

  27. Pacal says:

    You have been repeatidly presented on this website with the evidence that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. You have chosen to ignore that. You keep repeating statements that are to put it mildly exaggerated. You of course do not deal with the evidence but fantasize about “what could be”. That you don’t know that the statement from you I quoted is risible is of course typical.

    And of course like being called a denier by an Oxfordian is mega hilarious.

    You assume that you have a position that is defensible; it is not and it is entirely worthy of ridicule. I am not interested in a “reasoned” debate about an unreasonable piece of nonsense anymore than I am interested in debating whether the Earth is flat.

    However it is most fun dumping on Oxfordians. If youy want to believe in fanciful conspiracy theories do so. Your comment about the multi-billion dollar Shakespeare industry is also a rather funny example of conspircy- itis.

    As for the plot of Anonymous if you can’t see that the incest porn Prince Tudor “theory” iused in the movie is not throughly risible and absurd – oh well.

    No doubt mother and son got a trangressive frisson from &^$% each other. (sic). No doubt the fact that no biographer of Elizabeth I takes seriously the idea she ever got pregnant much less had multiple bastard children is no worth taking into account. (sic)

    But hey the Baconians came up with the notion that Elizabeth I was the mother of Francais Bacon I guess the Oxfordians had go one better and have Oxford not just be Elizabeth I’s son but her lover for a time. (YUCK!)

    Whatever turns your crank I guess.

  28. I repeat. If you can find anything in writing during Shakespeare’s lifetime which states that William Shakespeare was same man as the man from Stratford, please let us know.

    If not, please be quiet. You have no evidence.

    If you can point to a single individual during the lifetime of WS that claimed to have met and talked with William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon, please let us know?.

    If not, please be quiet. You have no evidence.

    And don’t give me the usual malarkey that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It sure is, that is why speculation and supposition are inadmissible in every court in the land.

  29. Pacal says:

    Why should I be quiet? I do not tell you to be quiet. Your continual statements that there is no evidence are again hilarious. No need to take anything you say seriously.

    Your further hilarious comment about abscence of evidence etc., is throughly ironic, given the near total abscence of evidence that Edaward de Vere had anything to do with Shakespeare and the wild speculations that blossom forth to explain that. Please list the evidence, not speculation, that Edward de Vere wrote any plays at all.

    And I note you do not deal with the absurd Prince Tudor theory. Please list the evidence not wild speculation that Edward de Vere was Elizabeth I’s son. Please list the evidence that Edward de Vere was ever her lover.

    Thank you once again for being very very amusing.

  30. Both Francis Meres in 1598 and George Puttenham praised Oxford as a playwright. Meres in his book “Paladis Tamia” listing prominent playwrights of the period singled Oxford out as “best for comedy.”. Of nearly twenty contemporary poets mentioned in Puttenham’s “Arte of English Poesie” (1589), only four (Oxford, Sidney, Ralegh and Dyer) appear three times. The references to Oxford are as follows:

    “in her Majesty’s time that now is, are sprung up
    another crew of Courtly makers (ie. poets),
    noblemen and gentlemen of her Majesty’s own
    servants, who have written excellently well, as
    it would appear if their doings could be found
    out and made public, with the rest, of which
    number is first that noble gentleman, Edward,
    Earl of Oxford . . .

    doings as I have seen of theirs . . . for tragedy,
    the Lord Buckhurst . . to deserve the highest
    praise, the Earl of Oxford . . . for comedy and

    As far Prince Tudor is concerned, I don’t completely buy into either theory but I am keeping an open mind. There are some very unusual circumstances as relate to Southampton. After he and Essex were sentenced to be executed, the Queen rescinded his execution and he remained in the Tower until after Elizabeth’s death. No explanation has ever been given as to why he received such special treatment, because the monarchy almost never reversed a decision of the court.

    Also, the first 17 Sonnets by Shakespeare are written to the “Fair Youth” which most scholars agree was Southampton. The dates of these early Sonnets is agreed upon as most likely between 1590 and 1592, the time when Southampton was contemplating marriage to Elizabeth Vere, Edward’s daughter. No commoner would ever be allowed to urge a nobleman to marry.

    In another strange situation, Southampton was arrested by King James the day after Oxford died and was released the next day. No explanation has ever been given but it is speculated that with Oxford’s death, James feared Southampton might make a claim for the throne.

    There are some good books on the subject which I would recommend.

    “Shakespeare and the Tudor Rose”, by Elisabeth Sears and “Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom” by Charles Beauclerk.

    Now would you please answer the questions I asked you or does your laughter indicate you don’t have any?

    • Eve says:

      Hi Howard, welcome back.

      I have listed a some of the evidence that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare–repeatedly. It’s pointless to keep going over it with you as you simply will not accept it. There is a small mountain of documentary evidence naming William Shakespeare as an author in his lifetime. I have listed some of these documents. You don’t accept them because they don’t say “William Shakespeare of New House, Stratford on Avon, son of a glover, player with the King’s Men.” “William Shakespeare” is enough for me. There is no reason to assume it is someone else; there’s certainly no reason to think it’s de Vere.

      Oh, and Francis Meres also mentioned Shakespeare, several times. Why mention both Shakespeare and de Vere if they were the same person?

      And Ben Jonson called Shakespeare “Sweet swan of Avon.” He is quite clear about who wrote the plays included in the First Folio.

      Charles Beauclerk? Charles de Vere Beauclerk? Descendant of Edward de Vere? A completely disinterested and objective source.

  31. Bob says:


  32. I hope Eve and other anti-Oxfordians will read some of the wonderful recent work on early modern anonymity and pseudonymity, by Griffin, Mullan, North, Starner, Traister, Danner, etc. All of them are Stratfordians. In view of their careful research, how can you continue to take the name on an early modern book at face value??

    My reviews of several of those books are on http://www.oxfreudian.com

    • Pacal says:

      Regarding this:

      “In view of their careful research, how can you continue to take the name on an early modern book at face value??”

      Rather easily. Given that Ben Jonson wrote the plays with his name on them etc. Or that most of the authors listed in early modern books seemed to have written the books. Given also that I would think someone wanting, for whatever reason to be anonymous would most likely use a made up name, not that of a actual living person of the time. I note that the people you mention are still as you say Startfordians I guess they find the evidence Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare compelling.

  33. Joseph L. Turner says:

    From: Joseph L. Turner
    To: Bob and esiebert (Eve)


    Jonson knew Shakespeare well.


    Please provide proof that Jonson had some face-to-face time with Shakespeare.

    My opinion on who wrote the plays, sonnets, and poems:

    Because 400 years (more or less) have elapsed we will never know for sure who wrote the plays, sonnets, poems. If there was any proof who wrote the plays, etc. that proof has been lost to time.

    The evidence that Shakespeare wrote the plays, etc. is at best circumstantial. Example: the name ‘Shakespeare’ on the plays does not constitute proof that the Stratford-upon-Avon person wrote the plays. It only tells you that the two names are the same—nothing more.

    The evidence that a person or persons (besides the Stratford-upon-Avon person) wrote the plays is circumstantial. If you think that a certain person wrote the plays please provide an accurate timeline for said person. If you do you will find that the documentation for an accurate timeline cannot be found.

    Note to Stratfordians: I would not feel too smug that the anti-Stratfordians cannot come-up with an accurate timeline for their person-of-chose. The effort to come-up with an accurate timeline for your golden boy will be a dismal failure, also!!!!!

    Question: Who do I think wrote the plays, etc.?

    If for no other reason than to piss-off the Stratfordians, I would have to give the nod to person or persons unknown (not your golden boy)!!!!!

    Thank you.

  34. Pacal says:

    “Please provide proof that Jonson had some face-to-face time with Shakespeare.”

    Well you might want to read the poem by Ben Jonson in the first folio or how about some of the stories told about Jonson an Shakespeare by Thomas Fuller, or the fact that Shakespeare’s company produced somme of Jonson’s plays.

    “The evidence that Shakespeare wrote the plays, etc. is at best circumstantial. Example: the name ‘Shakespeare’ on the plays does not constitute proof that the Stratford-upon-Avon person wrote the plays. It only tells you that the two names are the same—nothing more.”

    Shakes head in amazement. I suppose the inscripion on Shakespeare’s burial site is meaningless.

    “Note to Stratfordians: I would not feel too smug that the anti-Stratfordians cannot come-up with an accurate timeline for their person-of-chose. The effort to come-up with an accurate timeline for your golden boy will be a dismal failure, also!!!!!”

    Not very familar with recent Shakespeare scholarship I see. Try A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare:P 1599, by James Shapiro.

    “If for no other reason than to piss-off the Stratfordians, I would have to give the nod to person or persons unknown (not your golden boy)!!!!!”

    Childish and Yawn! Go troll someplace else.

    • Joseph L. Turner says:

      From: Joseph L. Turner
      To: Pacal
      To: Bob and Eve

      Thank you for your reply (I guess).

      It looks like Uncle Bob and Auntie Eve had the good sense (well, for Stratfordians anyway) to NOT take the bait.

      Pacal, you took the bait!!!!!!!!!!!

      First things first: There is no documentation that shows that Shakespeare and Jonson shared some face-to-face time. Pacal could not come-up (see below) with any documentation. Bob and Eve, maybe you can come-up with some documentation. I wait with baited breath!!!!!!

      Stop the presses! Bob and Eve, I will cut you some slack. You can just show me some written correspondence between Shakespeare and Jonson.

      Pacal, let us go over your reply.

      My post:

      Please provide proof that Jonson had some face-to-face time with Shakespeare.

      Your reply:

      Well you might want to read the poem by Ben Jonson in the first folio….
      ….or the fact that Shakespeare’s company produced somme (sic) of Jonson’s plays.

      My reply:

      Havel is Jonson.
      I am Shakespeare.

      Let us say that Vaclav Havel wrote (yes, I know that he just died. He was one of the good guys.) a poem about me and my company produced one of his plays. Havel and I have never shared any face-to-face time. He has read some of my plays and he has decided to write a poem based on his reading of my plays. Because I am a fan of his plays I decide to produce one of his plays. There is no need for Havel to know me personally (i.e. face-to-face time) to write a poem about me and I do not have to know Havel personally for me to produce one of his plays. I know of him because I have read his poem and plays and he knows of me because of my plays. There is no need for Havel and me to share some face-to-face time for us to write a poem or produce a play.

      Thus, I have destroyed your argument. No sweat!!!!

      Your reply;

      …or how about some of the stories told about Jonson an (sic) Shakespeare by Thomas Fuller….

      My reply:

      The following passage is from James Shapiro’s book, CONTESTED WILL-Who Wrote Shakespeare?, 2010, pages 256-257:

      A richer anecdote (my emphasis) was recorded by Thomas Fuller in 1684, who had heard (my emphasis) that John Fletcher and one of his fellow authors had met “in a tavern, to contrive the rude draft of a tragedy; Fletcher undertook to kill the king therein, whose words being overheard by a listener (though his loyalty not to be blamed herein), he was accused of high treason.” Luckily for Fletcher and his collaborator, the felony charges were dropped after it became clear “that the plot was only against a dramatic and scenical king,” and “all wound off in merriment.” The story, fictional or not (my emphasis), allows us a fleeting glimpse of what is otherwise almost entirely lost to us—writers working out a plot together. But how, when, and where Shakespeare conferred about the plot and characters of Pericles, Henry the Eighth, The Two Noble Kinsmen, or Timon of Athens we’ll never know.

      So, the following words are associated with Fuller:

      ‘anecdote’, ‘heard’, ‘fictional or not’

      and ‘we’ll never know’.

      To read another passage about Fuller please go to page 50. This is where Shaprio calls Fuller’s words secondhand anecdotes.

      In other words what Fuller had to say about Shakespeare (and Jonson by association elsewhere) were just stories, secondhand anecdotes—that’s all!!!!!

      Strike one

      My post:

      The evidence that Shakespeare wrote the plays, etc. is at best circumstantial. Example: the name ‘Shakespeare’ on the plays does not constitute proof that the Stratford-upon-Avon person wrote the plays. It only tells you that the two names are the same—nothing more.

      Your reply:

      Shakes head in amazement. I suppose the inscription on Shakespeare’s burial site is meaningless.

      My reply:

      The inscription is not meaningless, but it is undecipherable. Let this go, Pacal.

      Note: Pacal, I suggest you do a bit more research on your own and not use someone else’s research. If this is your research please get help!!!!

      Strike two

      Bob and Eve, you may want to help poor Pacal. On second thought, since you two are Stratfordians, never mind!!!!!!!!

      My post:

      Note to Stratfordians: I would not feel too smug that the anti-Stratfordians cannot come-up with an accurate timeline for their person-of-chose. The effort to come-up with an accurate timeline for your golden boy will be a dismal failure, also!!!!!

      Your reply:

      Not very familiar with recent Shakespeare scholarship I see. Try A Year in the life of William Shakespeare: P (sic) 1599, by James Shapiro

      Note: Shapiro uses conjecture to pad out his book to get 339 pages. He writes mostly about the history of the period and not about what Shakespeare did. There is little documentation on what Shakespeare actually did.

      My reply:

      One year does not make a timeline—accurate or not.

      Here is a timeline:

      Note: an accurate timeline should cover from 1564 to 1616. One date (1599) does not make a timeline—period.

      A timeline for Shakespeare should have three or more columns. Here are three headings:

      First column heading—The plays, sonnets, poems, etc.

      If you are a Stratfordian you can do the timeline of the plays in four ways:

      1. Late start
      Late end

      2. Late start
      Early end

      3. Early start
      Late end

      4. Early start
      Early end

      No matter how you start or end the timelines for the plays you will see that an accurate timeline is impossible. The documentation is just not there for an accurate timeline. But if you are a Stratfordian you will find a way— and the facts be damned!!!!!!!!!!

      The second column heading will say—Shakespeare as a business man in Stratford and the surrounding area.

      An accurate timeline is impossible (ignoring the “Lost Years” mind you) because the documentation is not there. There are some business documents, but not enough for a truly accurate timeline. A Stratfordian will fill in the blanks by conjecture and say that it is a fine job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      The third column heading will say—Shakespeare as an entrepreneur/actor in London and the surrounding area.

      As for an accurate timeline we can say the same thing for the third column as we did for the second column—lack of documentation, some documents, force fit by the Stratfordians, etc.

      Pacal, this is how you do a timeline.

      Strike three

      And you are out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I will use Mark Twain and Shakespeare (Puck) for my conclusion.

      Here is what Mark Twain said about Shakespeare (actually the Stratfordians):

      Mark Twain, 1835-1910, Is Shakespeare Dead? #36

      In, the list as above set down, will be found every positively know fact of Shakespeare’s life, lean and meager as the invoice is. Beyond these details we know not a thing about him. All the rest of his vast history, as furnished by the biographers, is built up, course upon course, of guesses, inferences, theories, conjectures—an Eiffel Tower of artificialities rising sky-high from a very flat and very thin foundation of inconsequential facts.

      Yes, there were no flies on Mark Twain. His words were never truer!!!!!!

      Shakespeare by way of Puck:

      Lord, what fools these mortals be!

      Stratfordians, we know who are the fools, don’t we.

      Good day.

  35. Pacal says:

    Virtually everything you say is caricature and nonsense and has I suspected you are not the slightest bit interested in anything but trolling. Now why don’t you go away and play someplace else.

  36. Eve says:


    I didn’t respond to your initial post because I was out of town visiting family. Since you seem to want only to provoke some sort of response rather than have any sort of reasonable conversation or debate, I see no point in responding to your bait.

  37. Joseph L. Turner says:

    To: Uncle Bob(by), Auntie Eve, Pacal

    Note: I will be calling you three the Scarecrows. Go to the bottom of the post for the reason why.

    Here is the inscription on Shakespeare’s burial site:



    ………………………………………………OBIT ANO DO 1616
    ………………………………………………AETATIS 53 DIE 23 APR

    As you can see the inscription makes no sense. Most half-way intelligent Stratfordians stay a mile away from the inscription when they provide “proof” that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.

    So, why did Pacal the Scarecrow include the inscription? It makes “sense” for a Stratfordian to mention Jonson’s poem in the First Folio and that Shakespeare’s company produced some of Jonson’s plays. But why the inscription? I racked by poor brain. I was going through my material and ran across this passage from the following site:


    The passage—The majority of academics specializing in…….
    …..Support for William Shakespeare as author rests on two main pillars of evidence: testimony by his fellow actors, and by his fellow playwright Ben Jonson in the First Folio, and the inscription on Shakespeare’s grave monument in Stratford.

    Note: This is the sixth paragraph from the beginning of the paper. The title of the paper is—Shakespeare authorship question – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I count three main pillars, but what the hell. The writer is probably an English major and we know they cannot count (especially Ph.Ds.)—isn’t that right Scarecrows.

    Pacal the Scarecrow, it looks like you read the passage and ran with it. I do not believe you have ever read the inscription—period.

    Please quote your sources from now on!!!!!!!!

    I invite you Scarecrows to the follow:

    The 16th Annual Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference will convene on the campus of Concordia University (Portland, Oregon) from April 12 – 15, 2012. The conference will open at 6:00 pm on Thursday, April 12 and close at 5:00 pm on Saturday, April 14.

    If you do go it would be wise to not say a thing. Just listen. If you open your collective mouth we, the anti-Stratfordians, will be forced to put you in your place.

    Auntie Eve the Scarecrow, you say that the Price Tudor theories are batshit. This is your opinion. What they are is gossip and should be treated as such by one and all.

    In conclusion, you three Scarecrows make very poor representatives for the Stratfordian side. The main reason is that the three of you do not know how to think, but then again who ever accursed English majors of logical thinking.

    Now for the reason for me calling you three ‘Scarecrows’: ‘Scarecrow’ refers to the
    Scarecrow character in the movie ‘The Wizard of OZ’. What did the Scarecrow want more than anything else in the world? Think about it, Scarecrows.

    I’LL BE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  38. pacal says:

    Trolling is boring.

  39. Eve says:

    What is it about the monument inscription that you think makes no sense?

  40. Joseph L. Turner says:

    To: Pacal the Scarecrow

    I suspect that your posts are like you—short, vile, stupid, and WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    To: Eve the Scarecrow

    Here is my reply to your post:

    I believe the inscription makes no sense because I have read what Diana Price has said about the inscription. You can find what she has to say about the inscription starting on page 161 in her book, SHAKESPEARE’S UNORTHODX BIOGRAPHY.

    The following paragraphs can be found on pages 164-165:

    Most importantly, the epitaph does not commemorate a dramatist. The phrase “Since all, [that] He hath writ, Leaves living art, but page, to serve his witt” is almost incomprehensible, and the abundance of commas does not help. Few biographers attempt to paraphrase it, and they generally pass up the opportunity to quote those who do. Stanley Wells interpreted the epitaph as “a cryptic remark which I take to mean that everything that he has written leaves an art that lives, if only on the page, to demonstrate his genius, with perhaps a pun on page as ‘side of a sheet of paper’ and ‘pageboy’” (10). Halliwell-Phillipps read the epitaph as recognition of Shakespeare’s ability to interpret nature (Outlines, 1:260). These attempts fail to satisfy. Although an apologist could read the whole epitaph as an inferior or cryptic version of “Here lies Shakespeare,” an objective reader would have to admit that it does not pay explicit tribute to Shakespeare, the celebrated dramatist and poet.
    Why isn’t Shakespere’s epitaph straightforward and eloquent, perhaps quoting one of the sonnets, for example,

    Here lies William Shakespeare, our great dramatist. …………….
    Not marble, nor the gilded monumments ……………………….
    Of princes, shall outlive his powerful rhyme. …………………….

    Instead, the epitaph fails as testimony to a recognized man of letters. The three impressive but irrelevant classical names from ancient history, and the dense passage including the words “writt’” “page,” and “art” do not constitute satisfying or even coherent praise for a poet.


    Eve the Scarecrow, this is the last time that I will quote from Price’s book so extensively. My quotes will be short from now on. I suggest you buy the book.

    So, who wrote the inscription?

    Here are four possibilities:

    1,. William Shakespere (Stratford-upon-Avon). If he wrote the inscription, he is a rank amateur when comes to writing poetry (think about that Stratfordians). The man must have been suffering from dementia and/or drunk when he wrote the inscription.

    2,. William Shakespeare (from the plays). All of us (Stratfordians and Anti-Stratfordians) should agree that it would be all but impossible for Shakespeare to have written the inscription.

    3,. Ben Jonson. I don’t think so!

    4,. Person unknown. Question: why would anybody write such an incomprehensible inscription? I have no answer.

    In conclusion, one would have to be any idiot (Pacal the Scarecrow) to point to the inscription when providing proof that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.

    Good day.

    • pacal says:

      Just in case anyone is thinks Diana Price is saying anything worth while about the inscription. I should mention the following from a review by Tom Veal:

      “More than a few statements by contemporaries explicitly identify Shakespeare the playwright with Shakespeare the actor from Stratford-upon-Avon. Miss Price’s approach to this contrary evidence is uniform: She finds some aspect of the text that is cryptic, ambiguous or otherwise hard to comprehend at first glance, from which she concludes that the surface meaning is untrustworthy, so that the document should be ignored completely or “paraphrased” in such a way as to yield an anti-Stratfordian meaning. Along with these invariably strained interpretations, she tosses about what one might call “atmospheric arguments”, chains of facts that sound portentous but lead nowhere.”

      Ms. Price is an anti-Stratfordian who uses what can only be described has “deconstructionist” methods to render passages that violate her strongly held belief that Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare, either to mean something else or to be “really” unintelligible. Mr. Turner has simply accepted Ms. Price’s claim that the passage is incomprehensible. It isn’t.

      For Tom Veal’s review see:


  41. Bob says:

    Joseph, you are painful to read and a deeply embarrassing parody of an intellectual. I feel very, very sorry for you.

  42. Joseph L. Turner says:

    To: Pacal the Idiot
    To: Auntie Eve (aka Queen of the Scarecrows)
    To: Uncle Bobby (aka Big Foot with glasses, King of the Scarecrows, Micro Brain)

    Let me deconstruct your reply, Big Foot.

    painful: Yes, facts are excruciating, especially for Stratfordians who do not know how to think. This would just about be all of them—including you three.

    deeply embarrassing parody of an intellectual: I never said I was an intellectual. You must have me confused with someone else. Big Foot, were you in a Stratfordian stupor when you typed out that phrase? Take a smart pill, please.

    I feel very, very sorry for you: Well, we agree on something, pea brain! Every time I have to deal with Stratfordians I feel sorry for myself. Note: one ‘very’ would suffice. No need to going overboard, ferret face!

    Q: How did the English major define microtome on his biology exam?
    A: An itsy bitsy book!
    microtome? Look it up, micro brain!!!!!!

    I am going to follow you three fools around like a bad smell—get use to it!!!!!!!!!

    In conclusion, let me channel my Mark Twain: Big Foot, if I want any crap from you I will squeeze your pointed little head—big time.


  43. Eve says:

    Mr. Turner, if you honestly believe that your juvenile name-calling reflects more poorly on us than it does on you, have fun. Just don’t expect us to rise to the bait or try to engage you in serious discussion.

  44. Joseph L. Turner says:

    To: Eve the Queen of the Scarecrows

    There is nothing about my replies that is juvenile. If the name fits it is not juvenile. You may not like it, Queenie, but that is too bad.

    Based on the quality of your replies to me and to everybody else on your site you three add nothing to the question of who wrote Shakespeare. You three cannot think past your collective nose.

    When you make an ignorant/stupid post or reply (is there any other kind from a Stratfordian) I will reply with both barrels.

    You three are pretentious ignoramuses. You read nothing but pro-Stratfordian material. I read both—pro-Stratfordian and anti-Stratfordian material. I will destroy your arguments by using your own pro-Stratfordian material (ala Diana Price).

    Your return reply means nothing to me!!!!

    Resistance is futile, fools!!!!!!!

    Queenie, say hi to Big Foot (with glasses) and The Idiot for me.

    HAVE A BAD ONE!!!!!

  45. pacal says:

    Joe your still a bore.

  46. Bob says:

    “I am going to follow you three fools around like a bad smell—get use to it!!!!!!!!!”

    Sure thing. Banned. I win.

  47. Ken says:

    For one confused moment I thought “Diana Price” was the actress who played Emma Peel on The Avengers. Then I realized my confusion was because Diana Rigg (who actually played Mrs. Peel) and Vincent Price starred in Theatre of Blood, a horror movie in which Price plays an actor who kills his critics in various macabre ways drawn from Shakespeare’s plays. Odd how the brain sometimes misfires and sees connections that aren’t really there.

  48. William Ray says:

    Despite the verbiage, a very entertaining exchange of views and levels of knowledge.

    Assign me among the extremely stupid. I do not comprehend how a man who had to painfully struggle to write his name six times, both in the prime and in the end (though then of sound mind and body) of it, can be the supernal author whom you all know and trust to be William Shakspere/Shakespeare. Those illiterate scrawls being the entire literary output of his life.

    Shake-speare is, was, and ever shall be a pseudonym. Whose, can be answered for certain in one case only. It was not Shakspere’s pseudonym. the misidentificatio nwas the other way round, to foreclose Lord Oxford’s literary oeuvre under the name of an allonymic cipher. That was after both had died.

    The simple error of attaching Shakspere to Shakespeare to the Shakespeare canon is indeed the shared assumption of all of you and much of the otherwise intelligent academic community as well.

    The First Folio was, is, and ever shall be a ruse, introduced by an etching of ‘William Shakespeare’, which has his left arm showing front and his left arm showing back where his right arm to sane viewers anyway would show front. But you have no difficulty believing the illogical, nor questioning why the illogical should be the frontispiece of the First Folio. Likewise with the idiotic poem of ten lines. It is a Cardano Grille cryptogram, stating E.O. Vere twice in one vertical line and confirming information to the right of the decyphering graph. All the worthies paying tribute to ‘Shakespeare’ in the First Folio were employees of William Herbert, Lord Chamberlain of Revels, brother in law of Susan Vere, daughter of Edward de Vere. The Herberts and Derbies financed it. Derby’s wife was Elizabeth Vere, daughter of the same Edward de Vere.

    The Shakespeare Monument was, is, and ever shall be until properly discredited, a ruse. The language is the steganographic blind for a message, quite simple: So test him I vow E. Vere is Shakspere, by me, Ben Jonson (initials). The “test him” part is answered as the Latin for the included phrase, ‘Quick Nature Died’–Sum Velocium Rerum Natura. Taking the first syllable of each Latin word: I am VeRe Natu, I am Vere by Birth.

    Over and out Gentles. Howard tried with all sincerity to communicate with you. Turner adopted the absurd in his frustration. I merely say “time will tell who has fell and who’s been left behind, when you go your way and I go mine.”

    William Ray

    • Bob says:

      Yeah, you don’t seem to understand that you HAVE ALREADY been left behind. Most of what you have spoken of has been addressed and explained thoroughly (often several times) elsewhere on the blog. No scholar will even look at you, or ever possibly respect your opinions, if you insist on the numerous logical fallacies and factual deficits in your opening: “I do not comprehend how a man who had to painfully struggle to write his name six times, both in the prime and in the end (though then of sound mind and body) of it, can be the supernal author whom you all know and trust to be William Shakspere/Shakespeare. Those illiterate scrawls being the entire literary output of his life.”

      Among your assumptions, which are goofy, 1) handwriting indicates literacy, 2) spelling, even of one’s own name, is a reliable indicator of literacy in the period we’re discussing, 3) that what we have in one hand is all someone ever wrote. You display a complete ignorance of typographic and spelling conventions of the period as well as even the existence of secretary hand. It’s a factual deficit + an appeal to ignorance. Not promising.

      Also, have you seen my handwriting, for crying out loud?

      Listen, you are right. A person who “painfully struggled to write his name” probably could not have written Shakespeare’s works. But you draw the wrong conclusion from that. What you’re seeing is not evidence that Shakespeare was “painfully struggling,” but that spelling and handwriting conventions were different than they are now. And this is well documented and accords perfectly with the documents we do have.

      Cripes, even de Vere signed his name with different different ways. Illiterate goofball. 🙂

      Also, regarding your ciphers, the real world is not the Da Vinci Code.


  49. Karin says:

    Joseph Turner:
    The writing on the memorial of Shakespeare do you know what the Latin inscription means??
    The first line translates as “A Pylian in judgement, a Socrates in genius, a Maro in art,” comparing Shakespeare to Nestor the wise King of Pylus, to the Greek philosopher Socrates, and to the Roman poet Virgil (whose last name, or cognomen was Maro). The second reads “The earth buries him, the people mourn him, Olympus possesses him,” referring to Mount Olympus, the home of the Greek gods.

    Howard Schumann:
    My jab at your 12 points
    1. Sonnets: First of all what is your direct proof that those were did any way show private details of the writers life? What is the proof that they were in any way autobiographical??
    2. The ever-living poet promises eternity…. who could promise eternity?? God.
    3. Were ‘t aught to me … if you read that does it say I did, or if I did… but also see 1.
    4. I read the sonnets and some of those first sonnets if you didn’t know they were to a man (entreating him to marry) you’d not know.
    Random search gave these 5 no identification of gender nor mentioning marriage…21, 36, 48, 56, 71
    Mind you I am not saying there aren’t sonnets that do try to convince marriage but the generalisation you show here is simply staggering…
    5. In his lifetime Shakespeare was not singled out at the greatest, it took a number of decades before that came about. Do not think that because we now think he is the greatest that he was always condisered that, or have you proof direct proof that he was considered that at the time….. no
    6. The Stratford monument shows that someone was extremely proud of the Stratford son, the author Shakespeare, was it his family? Jonson? Do you know who?? Can you say with absolute certainty that it was NOT those that were proud of knwoing him or veing related to hiim?
    7. Dr Hall’s journal was a medical journal of the patients he treated, he apparently did not treat his father-in-law, no personal diary has made it to these days (if he kept any)
    8. The sonnets started to be written in the 159- we do not know when each wwas written, they could have been written over decades.
    Many well-known authors/poets wrote about old age when they had’t even passed turned 30 (I think an example is Keats or Byron)
    9. See 1. but also the profession of actor was not a highly respectable one in those days just above hookers….
    10. Nashe and Harvey in their pamphlet war talk of a nobleman. This nobleman appears to be associated in some scandalous way with Venus & Adonis and an actor… guess to whom the dedication was of that poem….. and who wrote it…..
    Harvey gave the speech in Latin, and many Latin-English translators seem to disagree on the precise translation, if only he had used English.
    Even online translators seem to think that it is eyes shooting arrows, which is not a bad thing for a passionate earl I think…. but not the Shakespeare connection you want to find
    11. Most plays were published without a author attached that started to change during Shakespeare’s career.
    Before 1597 only Marlowe and Greene (posthumously) Lyly (after 6 plays 10 editions and a dozen years anonymously) and Lodge and Wilson had their names on the prints… not a common practice
    12. missing number probably a mistake
    13. I use here a link to someone who did all the work on this.
    But it seems that only Measure for Measure, Othello and Timon of Athens used sources that had no known English translations.
    3 sources out of 37 plays and 2 lyrical poems is not many.
    The circumstantial evidence is leaning strongly towards W Shakespeare having attended grammar school in Statford, where aside from Latin and English he received not much else for an education, but the Latin and English sufficed for his writing.

  50. knitwitted says:

    Can anyone explain why the Prince Tudor theories still exist? The first, that Southampton is Oxford and Liz’s son, is invalidated via [http://archive.org/stream/loseleymanuscri01kempgoog#page/n273/mode/1up] and the second, that Oxford is Liz’s son, is invalidated via [http://www.oxford-shakespeare.com/StatePapers12/SP_12-36-47.pdf] i.e. Margery Oxenford “being his natural mother”.

  51. Bob Grumman says:

    I wouldn’t use “invalidated” for either, but say something like, “Considering the strength of the evidence against both the proposition that Southampton was Oxford and Liz’s son (give URL) and the proposition that Oxford was Liz’s son (give URL)–and the lack of any good direct evidence for either . . . not to mention the sheer preposterousness of the various conspiracy theories the Prince Tudor advocates have had to come up the explain away the cover-up that was needed.”

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